How many times in life have you observed things going on in a family that made it obvious that something was very wrong and that there were things going on that were headed in all the wrong directions? But then as you watched you thought to yourself, “Are they totally oblivious to what is going on? Can’t they see all the signs that something is not right?” Truthfully, there are times when I’ve observed the same kind of thing going on in a church. It was obvious there were serious problems and that things were headed in the wrong direction but the leaders seemed to be totally in the dark about the situation.
It reminds me of when Jesus started speaking to the people in parables. Matthew records in Matthew 13:1-23 the parable of the sower, seed and soils. When he finished telling the story the disciples came to him with two questions. First, Why are you speaking in parables? Second, What does this parable mean? Jesus answered the first question with a quotation form Isaiah 69. “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see wiht their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.” Jesus told the disciples it was given to them to understand the stories he was telling but not to others. He then proceded to explain the story that the seed was God’s word and the soils represented the different kinds of hearts that people have who hear his word.
But focus with me on the explanation of why speak in parables. He spoke in stories or parables so that some could see and some couldn’t see. Those who wanted to hear and understand would be able to see the point and learn from it. Those who didn’t want to see would go away confused thinking it was just a story that he told and wondering why he told it to begin with. I can imagine some walking away saying, “Well he is a good story teller, but so is my grandpa and I think grandpa’s are more entertaining.” Let’s face it there are tons of things in life we will never see simply because we have closed our eyes to the topic and are determined we aren’t going to learn better. It happens all the time. We can become so ingrained in any topic or notion that we refuse to learn anything that is different or doesn’t fit what we already think. We can even close our eyes to things going on all around us so that we never learn anything different.
Why would we close our eyes on anything? I think of how often someone says, “I got tired of hearing all the bad things in the news, so I quit watching the news.” Or, “I only watch the news in this one place because they tell it the way I believe.” Think of the person who says, “I’ve been visiting all the different churches in the city looking for one that teaches everything the way I believe it.” Or, what about the parent that looks at their son or daughter that is 16 or 17 years old but all they can see is that they are still their little boy or little girl and so they treat them like they did when they were in elementary school. Picture the parent whose child comes home in tears and tries hard to tell them what is going on in their life only to be told “I don’t want to hear that stuff. It just kid stuff and you will grow out of it.” Sometimes parents find it near impossible to correct anything their child is doing wrong because they did all the same things themselves. It makes you wonder when in the world they will grow up and act like a parent rather than another teenager. Sometimes the best thing I can do is be open with the young person of the crazy mistakes I made when I was their age and all the problems and hurts it brought into my life. You could easily say to them, “I am praying you make better choices than I did. You have wonderful opportunities to choose the better way and live a better life.”
The fact I close my eyes to what is going on around me doesn’t change a single thing of what is going on. It is like the kid watching a horror scene on TV or the movie who puts their hands over their eyes so they won’t see it. But the whole thing is still happening and most of the time they will peek through their hands to get some glimpse of the horror anyway. Far too often even after closing one’s eyes what they imagine as happening during that time is as bad as what was shown on the screen.
Picture yourself in a situation where opinions are being expressed that are different from what you believe to be true or right. How do you handle it? Do you listen intently to try to fully understand where they other person is coming from and use it to examine and rethink what you have believed on the topic? Or do you clam up and refuse to listen to a thing that is said since you know it isn’t what you think is right already? Or do you spend the whole time the other person is talking figuring out what you are going to say in response to the degree you seldom hear anything they said because you mind is on how to answer what you think they are going to say?
Think of Jesus and how he dealt with people around him. Can you think of a time when the Bible records him butting in on what another person is saying to correct them? Can you remember anytime he refused to listen to what people were saying? I can think of times when he listened intently even though what was being said didn’t agree with what he said or did. Think of John 11 when Jesus returned to Bethany when Lazarus had died. First, Martha came to meet him and immediatly challenged him with the statement, “If you had been here my brother would not have died.” Notice Jesus didn’t start trying to defend himself. Instead he told her that he would be raised from the dead. When Mary came with the same words, but fell at his feet to say them, Jesus wept and groaned in his spirit or agonized from the inside. Neither time did he get on to the sisters for what they said or accuse them of making wrong judgments. He offered no defence but wept with them about the death of their brother. He then took them out to the cemetary and raised Lazarus from the dead.
I want to be like Jesus and walk through this world with my eyes wide open, seeing what is there and hearing what is said around me. I want to listen closely to those who have opinions and ideas that are different from mine, knowing they may be right and I may be wrong. I want the heart and attitude that says, “If I see I’ve been wrong about a thing I will change immediately rather than trying to defend the status quo or stay with what I have always thought. God doesn’t change. His word doesn’t change. But as a human I change all the time and may well change my mind even on what God has said.
David prayed in the 119th Psalms, “Lord open my eyes that I might see the wonderous things of your word.” I want always for that to be my prayer from the heart to God.”